House Censures Longtime Trump Foe Adam Schiff

From a Wall Street Journal story by Siobhan Hughes headlined “House Censures Longtime Trump Foe Adam Schiff”:

The Republican-controlled House voted to censure Rep. Adam Schiff, a longtime antagonist of former President Donald Trump, making him only the third member to suffer such a rebuke since the turn of the century.

The vote was 213 to 209 along party lines, with six Republicans voting present.

Democratic lawmakers yelled “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as the vote wrapped up. Speaker Kevin McCarthy then summoned Schiff to the well of the chamber and was repeatedly interrupted as he read him the censure resolution. “I have all night,” McCarthy said.

The vote came amid a broader push by some House Republicans to punish Democrats and administration officials under “privileged votes” that fast track the measures. After one lawmaker pressed for an impeachment vote against President Biden, McCarthy, who supported the Schiff censure, said such efforts were premature and disruptive.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, the freshman sponsor of the Schiff censure resolution, alleged that he improperly used his prior position as House Intelligence Committee chairman to spread falsehoods about Trump regarding ties to Russia and encourage abusive intelligence investigations.

In a speech Wednesday, she said Schiff “woke up every morning with one goal, to lie, lie, lie to the American people that there was direct evidence of Russia collusion.”

Schiff, who led the first of the two impeachments of Trump, has said that Republicans are targeting him because he had been so effective at holding Trump accountable. Trump was impeached in the House on allegations he used aid to Ukraine as leverage to seek investigations into the Bidens. He was acquitted in the Senate.

“You honor me with your enmity,” Schiff said. “Your words tell me I have been effective in the defense of our democracy.”

In the floor debate, Democrats accused Republicans of censuring Schiff to show their loyalty to the former president, whose second impeachment centered on his actions related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. He is now the early front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

“Republicans care more about sucking up to Trump than doing what is right for the country,” said Rep. Jim McGovern.

Luna responded: “We are not here about Donald Trump or January 6 but the former chairman of the Intelligence Committee that used a lie that broke apart our country.”

Censure carries no practical weight but is the highest form of discipline by the House short of expulsion. The most recent censure was of Rep. Paul Gosar in 2021, after he posted an animated video depicting the killing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Before that, then-Rep. Charlie Rangel was censured in 2010 for ethics violations relating to congressional perks, taxes and asset reporting.

McCarthy removed Schiff from the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year. Schiff is now running to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The House voted last week to table, or kill, a bill censuring Schiff, with Democrats joined by some Republicans who had raised concerns about a provision aimed at fining him $16 million. Luna then revised her resolution to exclude the fine and brought it back to the floor.

Earlier in the day, McCarthy criticized Rep. Lauren Boebert for seeking a vote to impeach Biden over immigration and border policy, calling the move counterproductive and saying any such measure would need to come after a thorough investigation.

“We have to make the case to make the indictment. You don’t just put something on the floor,” the California Republican told reporters Wednesday. “This is one of the most serious things you can do as a member of Congress,” he said. “You’ve got to go through the process.”

Boebert on Tuesday had initiated the vote on impeaching Biden. But on Wednesday, after conversations on the House floor with McCarthy, Boebert said she had been promised that the Homeland Security Committee would take up the matter. The House will vote Thursday on a revised measure that refers the matter of impeachment to the House Judiciary and Homeland Security committees.

“If nothing happens in committee like I’m promised that it will, yes, I will bring a privileged resolution every day for the rest of my time here in Congress,” Boebert told reporters.

McCarthy supported the resolution censuring Schiff, as he has in the past, but signaled he is aiming to put the brakes on new efforts by House Republicans to rush to the floor with additional privileged resolutions. Such measures can interrupt the regular order of business and go directly to the House floor.

“I don’t think they are as productive,” he said of additional resolutions. He said Americans supported ongoing Republican investigations but also wanted Congress to address issues such as inflation and crime.

Still, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said Wednesday she planned to turn her own resolutions—including ones to impeach Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray as well as Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas—into privileged resolutions.

“Impeachment is an important tool,” she told reporters. “As far as people saying that there has to be this big, long process in House, that’s not necessarily true.”

Other House Republicans have concluded that impeaching Biden or other officials would short-circuit the investigative work of the House Oversight Committee and the House Judiciary Committee and deal a blow to due process.

“We should not water down the importance of impeachment. This is not a playground game. And I think it’s been treated that way by some. It’s not right,” said Rep. Don Bacon.

The Oversight Committee is investigating the financial dealings of Biden and his family, while the Judiciary Committee is looking into what Republicans allege is politicization at the Justice Department and the president’s handling of an influx of migrants at the southern border.

McCarthy told reporters that he had called Boebert late Tuesday afternoon after being blindsided by her decision to attempt to jump-start a presidential impeachment.

“My request to her was, ‘Before you put something forward, shouldn’t you first talk to the conference about it?’” McCarthy recounted. Boebert said she would consider delaying the resolution or presenting it to other Republicans at a closed-door House GOP conference, but she didn’t attend that meeting, McCarthy said.

Republicans support censuring Schiff largely because they think he went too far when he said the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential contest. Former special counsel Robert Mueller detailed repeated contacts between people in Trump’s orbit and the Kremlin, including those related to the hacking and dumping of Democratic National Committee emails, but didn’t establish that the Trump campaign knowingly conspired with Russia.

Republicans think Schiff justified an error-ridden surveillance application against onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page. A government watchdog said in a December 2019 report that the FBI had withheld potentially exculpatory material about Page from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when seeking a warrant.

Schiff has said the evidence of collusion was in plain sight, whether or not it rose to the level of criminality. As far as justifying the surveillance application, Schiff said recently that when Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee circulated a January 2018 memo stating that the FBI didn’t abuse the FISA process, “there was no way we could have known, for example, that some lower-level FBI lawyer misrepresented something.”

Simon J. Levien contributed to this article.

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